CrunchArcade From E3: Microsoft Gets the Game, No Price Cut Announced for Xbox 360

It’s that time of year again… well, actually it should have been that time of year two months ago, but at any rate E3 has arrived. The Electronic Entertainment Expo is the Mecca for all things video game related. This year the show has moved from the hustle and bustle of downtown Los Angels for the more serene setting of sea-side Santa Monica.

The show is smaller and more intimate but it also has more security procedures than it takes to get on a commercial airliner. Badges require photos — because god forbid someone not approved (invited says the ESA) should sneak a peak at the games. We’ll be reporting from the
show and giving you the scoop. First up is Microsoft.

For the house of Gates what a difference a year makes. Sometimes comedians hone their craft by going back to the small clubs, and even rock bands use to major stadiums can get personal by playing a smaller venue. Well, it worked for Microsoft too. The company kicked off this
year’s scaled-back Electronic Entertainment Expo not at Mann’s Chinese Theater but at the Santa Monica High School!
Taking things outdoors to the small but ample arena styled venue allowed a greater focus on the game, and for Microsoft this year is just about the games. There was no announcement of price cut, and very little attention given to the hardware. About the only big news on the
hardware front was that the Xbox Live Marketplace will debut in Canada and Europe later this year, and that the Xbox 360 Elite version, with the larger hard drive and HDMI outputs, would be available in Europe at the end of August.
This was part of the company’s focus on marketing the Xbox 360 as much more than a game machine. At the press conference announced deal with Disney to bring the Mouse House’s library of content to the Xbox Live service, and this would include films and other content. Among those available now in both standard and high definition formats were animated films such as “Tarzan,” “Hercules,” and “The Emperor’s New Groove,” as well as live action films from various Disney studios including “Unbreakable” and “The Queen.” As part of the deal all future movie releases from Disney will follow on the Xbox Live service.

Of course it is games that the audience wanted to hear about, and the evening kicked off with “Five Halo Fans from Libertyville, Illinois” playing a classical crossover rendition of the Halo theme music, before Vice President of Microsoft Games Peter Moore announced that
the “epic work of gaming fiction” would arrive in just 11 weeks. The company clearly intends to go all out with the Halo franchise, so far as to announce that a Halo 3 Special Edition console would also arrive this September, along with a line of Halo 3 themed accessories. “This could become a billion dollar franchise and is this generation’s
epic,” said Moore. No kidding, especially if you hope to actually sell these things Pete!
It wasn’t all Halo 3 either, but the company hopes to make this part of their one-two-three punch, which will also include the upcoming Madden 08 and of course Grand Theft Auto IV. Together Moore said that the Xbox 360 could have the potential to drive one third of all new game sales. Grand Theft Auto IV will ship in North America and Europe in October, with additional exclusive Xbox 360 content released next spring.

Only one title was announced for next year, that being the surprise unveiling of Resident Evil 5 from Capcom. An official trailer will debut on July 26.